Departure of Leisure Insure requires emergency response from Government

Slow implementation of changes from Cost of Insurance Working Group leave industry in crisis- I repeat the calls from my party colleague and Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath TD who has called on the government to hold an emergency meeting with the insurance industry as Leisure Insure departs the Irish insurance market.

UK-based Leisure Insure are specialists in providing insurance for sport, leisure and entertainment. It is my understanding that they are the only provider of insurance in Ireland for some parts of the leisure industry. With this provider gone jobs are at risk across Cavan-Monaghan.

I have raised my concerns with the Minister for Finance. The insurance industry is in a state of chaos. Businesses, community events, and individuals cannot meet the soaring costs of insurance premiums. The Cost of Insurance Working Group was formed in 2016. Three years on changes have been slow to come around.

A true reflection of this is that fact insurance costs are still rising. Like many crises, the government seem to be doing very little to resolve the problems. The government needs to hold an immediate crisis meeting with the insurance industry in light of this decision to find a way of ensuring that viable businesses can continue to access insurance cover at reasonable rates.

Without such action the future of many leisure and activity-based businesses have an uncertain future. Please see attached reply to my parliamentary question.

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Finance his plans to implement further recommendations of the Cost of Insurance Working Group in view of the ongoing widespread concerns regarding escalating insurance costs; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

At the outset, the Deputy should note that I am responsible for the development of the legal framework governing financial regulation. Neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, can interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products, as these matters are of a commercial nature, and are determined by insurance companies based on an assessment of the risks they are willing to accept. This position is reinforced by the EU framework for insurance which expressly prohibits Member States from adopting rules which require insurance companies to obtain prior approval of the pricing or terms and conditions of insurance products.

Consequently, I am not in a position to direct insurance companies as to the price or the level of cover to be provided either to consumers or businesses. However, I acknowledge the general problems faced by many consumers, businesses, and community and voluntary groups, in relation to the cost and availability of insurance. I also appreciate that there is some frustration about the perceived pace of reform. Unfortunately, there is no single policy or legislative “silver bullet” to immediately stem or reverse premium price rises. This is because there are many constraints faced by the Government in trying to address this issue in particular the fact that for constitutional reasons, it cannot direct the courts as to the award levels that should be applied and for legal reasons it cannot direct insurance companies as to the pricing level which they should apply in respect of businesses seeking insurance.

I wish to reemphasise how important this issue is for the Government. As the Deputy is aware, the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG) was established in July 2016 and undertook an examination of the factors contributing to the increasing cost of insurance in order to identify what short, medium and long-term measures could be introduced to help reduce the cost of insurance for consumers and businesses.

The Deputy will recall that the CIWG has produced two reports since its inception and has been working to implement the 33 recommendations of the Cost of Motor Insurance Report published in 2017, as well as the 15 Recommendations of the Cost of Employer and Public Liability Insurance Report, published in 2018. To that end, the key achievements to date from the two reports, including the following:

• the passing of the Judicial Council Bill by the Oireachtas on 9 July in order to implement the recommendations of the Personal Injuries Commission regarding award levels in this country, including a judicial recalibration of the existing Book of Quantum guidelines;

• the commencement by the Law Reform Commission (LRC) of its work to undertake a detailed analysis of the possibility of developing constitutionally sound legislation to delimit or cap the amounts of damages which a court may award in respect of some or all categories of personal injuries, as part of its Fifth Programme of Law Reform;

• the establishment of the National Claims Information Database in the Central Bank to increase transparency around the future cost of private motor insurance;

• reforms to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019;

• commencement of the amendments to Sections 8 and 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 to make it easier for businesses and insurers to challenge cases where fraud or exaggeration is suspected;

• the reform of the Insurance Compensation Fund to provide certainty to policyholders and insurers; and,

• various reforms of how fraud is reported to and dealt with by An Garda Síochána, including increased co-ordination with the insurance industry, as well as the recent decision by the Garda Commissioner to develop a divisional focus on insurance fraud which will be guided by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) which will also train Gardaí all over the country on investigating insurance fraud, and the recent success under Operation Coatee, which targets insurance-related criminality.

I believe that these reforms are having a significant impact with regard to private motor insurance (CSO figures from May 2019 show that the price of motor insurance is now 24.5% lower than the July 2016 peak). The Government is determined to continue working to ensure that these positive pricing trends can be extended to other forms of insurance, including those relevant to businesses.

Undoubtedly the single most essential challenge which must be overcome if there is to be a sustainable reduction in insurance costs particularly for small businesses is to bring the levels of personal injury damages awarded in this country more in line with those awarded in other jurisdictions.

In this regard, the Personal Injuries Commission has highlighted the significant differential between award levels in Ireland and other jurisdictions, and has made a number of recommendations to address this issue, in particular the establishment of a Judicial Council to compile guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury. Minister of State D’Arcy and I have worked closely with the Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr Charlie Flanagan TD to progress the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas as a matter of priority. I am therefore pleased that the Bill was passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas on 9 July, and I expect it will be signed into law by the President shortly.

Now that the Bill has been passed, it will be a matter for the Judiciary to put in place the Judicial Council and to establish the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee. While the Government cannot interfere in their deliberations, I would hope that the Judiciary will recognise the importance of this issue and prioritise it accordingly and will take account of the PIC’s benchmarking report.

Finally, I would like to assure the Deputy that the Cost of Insurance Working Group will continue to focus on implementing the remaining recommendations of the Report on the Cost of Employer and Public Liability Insurance in parallel with implementing those from the Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance and I expect to publish the Ninth Update Report by the Cost of Insurance Working Group in the coming weeks. I am hopeful that the cumulative effects of the completion of the two Reports’ recommendations will include increased stability in the pricing of insurance for businesses and a more competitive insurance market

Swanlinbar Water Restrictions

Water-300x169

I have received confirmation from Irish Water that they are working with Cavan County Council and are investigating an alternative water supply source for Swanlinbar.

I have raised with Irish Water the need to source an alternative water supply as far too often over the years difficulties have arisen with regard to quantity and quality of supply to the town and its catchment area.

Irish Water in their response stated:

“Irrespective of the outcome of that investigation the investment that Irish Water are making in the treatment plant will ensure that the it is robust and able to supply water to all EU and Irish Standards” stated Irish Water.

I outlined in my representations to Irish Water that an alternative water supply source should be prioritised for investment and added that the people in Swanlinbar and its catchment area need to have a reliable and up-to-standard public water supply.

The full correspondence from Irish Water:

Dear Deputy Smith,

Thank you for your recent communication on behalf of constituents regarding the public water supply in Swanlinbar, Co Cavan.

I have received an update from the relevant department and can advise as follows;

Irish Water working with Cavan County Council are investigating an alternative source for Swanlinbar.

Irrespective of the outcome of that investigation the investment that Irish Water are making in the treatment plant will ensure that the it is robust and able to supply water to all EU and Irish Standards.

I trust you find the above information satisfactory. Thank you for contacting Irish Water.

PQ – Peace Plus Programme

peace dove

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the authorities in Northern Ireland and with the EU Commission in relation to the proposed PEACE PLUS programme; the projected timeframe for its introduction; the measures that will be included in the programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

REPLY

The Irish Government has consistently maintained its strong commitment both to the full implementation of the current PEACE and INTERREG programmes and to a successor programme post-2020.  My officials and I have worked to ensure that this important funding continues after Brexit.

I was pleased, therefore, that in May 2018, the European Commission included a proposal for a special new PEACE PLUS programme that will build on and continue the work of both PEACE and INTERREG in its proposals for 2021-2027 cohesion policy.  I warmly welcome this proposal which is being advanced as part of the ongoing work on the draft cohesion policy regulations and the Multiannual Financial Framework.    I also welcome the firm and reiterated
commitment of the UK Government to the PEACE PLUS programme.

The PEACE PLUS programme will cover the 2021-2027 programming period.  My officials have already commenced initial work with their counterparts in Northern Ireland and in the Special EU Programmes Body on preparations for this new programme.   Detailed development work will take place during 2019 and 2020.  The draft programme will then be submitted to the European Commission for approval and the aim will to be for the programme to begin as soon as possible after the start of 2021.

The specific themes and activities to be supported in PEACE PLUS will be established during the detailed programme development process co-ordinated by the Special EU Programmes Body.  This process will include comprehensive stakeholder engagement and public consultation.  The themes selected will be in line with the policy objectives and the overall thematic areas set out in the cohesion policy regulations.

East-West Route is of Critical Importance to Cavan/Monaghan

east-west

I have  urged the Minister for Transport to prioritise the East-West route as the road is of critical importance to the border region.  Again in Dáil Éireann I highlighted to Minister Ross the need to allocate funding to Cavan County Council for the further design and development of the proposed East-West route, namely, the upgrading of the Cootehill, Shercock, Carrickmacross, Dundalk route in view of its importance to the border region.

The road carries a very heavy volume of traffic, particularly of heavy goods vehicles, and there is a need to have major improvement works carried out. Poor infrastructure is an additional cost-burden on business and enterprise. Routes such as this should be prioritised as a matter of urgency. The importance of this route will only grow post Brexit.

I understand Minister Ross has allocated €100k to Cavan County Council to undertake a detailed project appraisal. This appraisal is being used to give further consideration to future development. When the Minister and his Department consider allocations for 2020 I would urge him to prioritise the East-West route.

Govt Must Increase Engagement on Undocumented Irish in US

crossed us and Irish flagsThe government needs to increase its engagement with the US administration to further protection for the undocumented Irish in the United States.

In my role as the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee,  I see cases such as the arrest and threatened deportation of Cork man Keith Byrne, a married father of three, who has been living in the States for the past 12 years.

This case highlights the very real issues facing Irish people who may have overstayed their visa in the US but who have married, are raising children and have set up homes and live in the States.  They are working, paying taxes and contributing to their communities but are living in fear of deportation.

Last year I led a delegation of Oireachtas members to the United States to lobby on behalf of the undocumented Irish. We met legislators and Irish advocacy groups and discussed the challenges facing many Irish people who need to have their status regularised.

Here in Ireland we recently introduced the Migrant Regularisation Scheme, which would allow certain undocumented migrants gain legal status in this country. The scheme is open to people who came to Ireland as international students between 2005 and 2010.

I believe our government should be engaging more whole-heartedly with its counterparts in the US and emphasising the benefits of the Migrant Regularisation Scheme and similar programmes here in Ireland. They should be exploring the possibility of examining a similar scheme for the undocumented Irish in the US.

The links between Ireland and the US have always been strong and our diaspora play a key role in maintaining relationships.  It is vitally important that these connections are supported into the future.

Brexit uncertainty increased by fragmented British political landscape – Smith

brexit bigger

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has said uncertainty and concerns have increased in the Border Region as the Brexit deadline of October 31st approaches.

Speaking during a Dáil debate on the introduction of Brexit contingency plans, the Border Region TD commented, “We should prepare for a disorderly Brexit as it becomes clear there is a vacuum of leadership in London and Stormont. It is very concerning this is the situation we find ourselves in as the October deadline looms.

“The claims from Tory leadership candidates are frightening and short-sighted. The wild speculation and the misinformation that is passing for political analysis from those around both of the Tory leadership candidates leaves us with no alternative but to be prepared for the worst, but we must still be careful that what we do and say does not add fuel to the flames of the misinformation. There is a responsibility, indeed a duty, on those who speak for the Government to be measured and precise in their phraseology in these uncertain times. People need to be kept informed.

“The political atmosphere on the neighbouring island is now so febrile that even the wildest piece of nonsense, something that we here know as totally untrue and incorrect, is hailed as political fact. We risk seeing a whole fictional fake news world being built up around the idea of alternative arrangements as a viable and available solution.

“There is much uncertainty over the border. As someone who crosses the border daily, travelling around our community the proposed ‘solutions’ are very concerning.

 “We cannot allow a hard border to be implemented on our island. The government must do everything to protect against this. The primacy of the Good Friday Agreement must be protected.

 “While we still fervently hope for an orderly and managed Brexit based on the already negotiated withdrawal agreement with a lengthy and calm transition phase, we know that we must prepare for a no-deal Brexit,” concluded Deputy Smith.

Harsh FG/Labour cuts leaving pensioners paying the price – Smith

pension

– Fewer than half of reviews have resulted in increased payments –

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has said that old people are still feeling the hurt from changes to the State pension brought in by the last Fine Gael/Labour government.

The changes, introduced in 2012, disproportionally impacts women, resulting in reduced pension payments.  Last year Fine Gael promised to review the anomaly, but figures provided to Fianna Fáil reveal that fewer than half of those reviewed to date have seen their payments increase.

Deputy Smith commented, “The changes to pension entitlements brought in by the Fine Gael-Labour government in 2012 were mean-spirited and cruel and have negatively impacted thousands of pensioners in Cavan-Monaghan. Fianna Fáil rejected this policy and campaigned to get it reversed, ultimately leading to the decision by Minister Doherty to review the current situation.

“However, the latest information from the Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection is extremely disappointing.  Around 90,000 pensioners are having their documentation reviewed.  To date, just over 77,000 reviews have been completed but only 32,000 pensioners have received an increase in their pension.

“Pensioners have contacted my offices with concern over delays in a decision and no increases in many cases. The government must not continue to disrespect pensioners following their own policy changes,” concluded Deputy Smith.

Delay in reimbursements unacceptable – Smith

crossborder_focus

-Cross-Border Directive patients left waiting months for reimbursement-

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has said the delay in reimbursements through the Cross-Border Directive (CBD) programme is unacceptable and has called on the Minister for Health to increase resources within the CBD office to tackle waiting times.

Deputy Brendan Smith explained, “Over the years the CBD programme has become increasingly popular, primarily due to growing waiting times for procedures in our health care system.

“In my own constituency many have availed of the programme and gone across the border for medical procedures. However, they pay up front and await reimbursement which is often months being processed.

“The onus is on the Minister and his Department to ensure people are repaid monies owed. In most cases, people are traveling for treatment due to his failing HSE. The least the HSE can do is reimburse people in a timely manner,” concluded Deputy Smith.

CBD PQ 2781319

 

Increase in resources required for Border Region – Smith

imagegarda

-Gardaí require robust resources ahead of Brexit

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has said that further policing resources are required in the Border Region following an increase in crime in the region and the forthcoming Brexit deadline.

Deputy Brendan Smith commented, “There is a requirement for increases in the resources and Garda numbers allocated to our area. Across the island, the Border Region is the area most susceptible to an increase in crime post Brexit.

“We have feuding gangs in the North East and a spate of ATM robberies throughout the region. I fear this trend will only increase following a disorderly Brexit.

“There is a fear in communities throughout Cavan-Monaghan. Without a robust police force there is no chance of this fear subsiding,” concluded Deputy Smith.

Policing PQs 2689219 2689319

Ends

Minister must deliver on broadband – Smith

 

Below is a reply by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment to a Parliamentary Question I tabled in Dáil Éireann regarding the Eir proposal in relation to the provision of Broadband nationally.

______________________________________________
For Written Answer on : 02/07/2019
Question Number(s): 548,549,568,571 Question Reference(s): 27988/19, 27989/19, 28019/19, 28184/19
Department: Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Asked by: Barry Cowen T.D., Brendan Smith T.D.
______________________________________________

QUESTION

[Ref No: 28184/19]

*  To ask the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment if he has considered the recent proposal by a company (details supplied) in relation to the provision of broadband nationally; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  – Brendan Smith.

* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 2nd July, 2019.  Eir

(919  Received on 26th June, 2019.)

Transferred from Public Expenditure and Reform

REPLY
I propose to take Question Nos 548, 549, 568 and 571 together.

I would like in the first instance to clarify that eir has made no formal proposal to Government to replace or supersede the National Broadband Plan.

At its appearance at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, eir’s CEO outlined eir’s view on the value for money of the NBP. eir’s CEO made certain observations with regard to eir’s own model for delivery of rural broadband, which could only be delivered outside of the current procurement process. My Department requested a detailed outline from eir setting out the assumptions made and the financial model underpinning eir’s assumptions. eir provided further information to my Department at close of business on Friday 28 June and my Department and its NBP advisers are currently analysing this information.